Yakima Products filed two lawsuits in the Oregon District Court on Nov. 13, alleging patent infringement against two different companies: Inno Advanced Car Racks (a Car Mate USA company) based in Torrance, Calif., and Saris Cycling Group of Madison, Wis.
The patents at issue are U.S. Patents 5,056,700, 6,431,423, 6,467,664, and 6,840,418. Yakima alleged in court documents that Inno (www.rv-inno.com) is infringing on the patents by manufacturing and selling bicycle carriers and assemblies including the INH301 Aero Light. Yakima is also alleging that Saris (www.saris.com) is infringing on its patents by manufacturing and selling bicycle carriers and assemblies including the T-Rax (a hitch-mounted rack), Guardian 2 and Guardian 3 (both trunk-mounted racks).
In both cases, Yakima said it is seeking compensation for lost profits, royalties for use of patents, attorney fees and an injunction preventing further infringement.
On its website, Inno said it was formerly RV-Inno and operates as a division of Car Mate USA, a wholly owned subsidiary of Car Mate Mfg. of Toyko, Japan. It also noted the car-rack division was started in Japan in 1976 and claims a 60-percent market share in the Japanese car-rack market.
Saris is well regarded in the bike industry, and founded by husband and wife team -- Chris and Sara Fortune. A page on its website touts the racks it sells as designed by Italian product designer Fabrio Pedrini.
SNEWS® View: As with any lawsuit, there are always two sides to the story. It is important to remember it is one thing to allege somebody did something, quite another to prove it. Still, two lawsuits filed in the same court around identical patent issues on the same day do seem to indicate that Yakima is not simply trying to innovate by litigation and intimidation as some in the outdoor industry have been prone to do in the past. It is clear from the filings that Yakima believes it has something solid to build its case upon. Now it is up to the court. --SNEWS Editors